Dancing About Architecture
Another Sixth Street club discontinues live original music, as Davíd Garza struggles to get his heard.
Putting Off the Ritz
Say goodbye to one more live music venue on Sixth Street. The Ritz's tiny upstairs stage, the last refuge for live acts at the once-mighty punk rock haven of the mid-Eighties (Dicks, Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys, etc.), is being remodeled to look like its current downstairs -- a pool and game room. Booker/bartender Marshall Sugg says that chief among the main factors was owner Bob Woody's desire to eliminate having a cover charge for the room, with the feeling being that too large a portion of the upstairs crowd was paying a cover just to see their favorite bartender. Sugg says he's got occasional shows still planned, like a July appearance by Gahdzilla Motor Company, Squat Thrust, and the Spiders, which will likely be a no-cover gig. Unfortunately, some bands got left in the lurch, like the Shearwater/Cinders show, which was scheduled for tonight (Thursday) and even earned a coveted recommended in last week's Chronicle.
Down a few blocks at Fat Tuesday's, meanwhile, Danny Crooks notes that such decisions reinforce what he calls the dominant attitude down on the street: "For so many people, the band is just background noise." The former Steamboat captain is dealing with a similar issue in at his new Sixth Street home, with plans at Fat Tuesday's calling for a separation of bar and band areas so there's only cover for those who want to check out who's onstage. Crooks says he's ordered $14,000 worth of P.A. equipment for the venue, with plans to go to five nights a week of live music in July. Expect a mix of new names and established Steamboat favorites like Steamroller, Vallejo, and Johnny & the Footpedals, er, I mean Goudie.
Over at Stubb's, a busy Charles Attal denies rumors that House of Blues is buying the club "at this time," but confirms that he's begun booking Trees and the Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas. He got involved with those two venues, he says, because they're owned by friends of his, and while working with them helps him assemble a sort of mini-circuit for touring bands, he's also booking a wider variety of acts up there than he down here. One more rumor Attal dispels is the one claiming that the Damnations are breaking up. No, he says, the story with that particular batch of alt.country stars is that they've finally gotten out of their trouble-plagued Sire deal and are looking to release their new, unnamed but long-completed album on another, also unnamed at this time, label.
It's Time For Dah-Veed!
Despite the fact that Davíd Garza was recently exposed to the same demographic that catapulted local guitarist/filmmaker Robert Rodriguez over the $100 million mark with Spy Kids -- the two penning "Oye Como Spy" for the soundtrack -- rumblings from the former Twang Twang Shock A Boomer's camp are that his sophomore effort for Atlantic Records might not be getting the same sort of promotional support. Seems that Garza had more than just last-minute overdubs to do on his forthcoming Overdub, whose release date was recently pushed back two weeks to July 10 after label brass "didn't hear a single." Since this was long after advance copies of the album had gone out, Garza had to knock out three new tracks in a hurry at a studio in El Paso. Two of the album's three "new" tunes, "Too Much" and "Let Me," are from previous Garza indie releases, while the brand-spanking- new "Say Baby" is scheduled as the album's first single. Funny that, if speculation is correct that the song was written specifically for label suits that think a song can't be a hit unless it has the word "baby" in the title. That's more subtle than the Sex Pistols' "E.M.I." or the Rolling Stones' "Cocksucker Blues," certainly, and Garza can only hope "Say Baby" gets as much radio play as John Fogerty's "Vanz Can't Danz," written about the CCR frontman's former label head. Regardless, scuttlebutt has it that Atlantic's promotional efforts will go to STP, the Cult, and Sugar Ray this summer rather than Señor Garza, who nevertheless is currently a hot commodity. Not only is legendary shutterbug Annie Liebowitz shooting him for a new book she's assembling (one that also features Alejandro Escovedo), Garza can also be found in the current issue of Rolling Stone, Details, and on tour with Mark Eitzel. Of course that three-star RS review of Overdub mentions a song no longer on the album, and somehow, the local stop of the Eitzel tour (at the Mercury, June 28) won't feature Garza opening, but that shouldn't stop the indomitable local performer from persevering just as he has throughout an already long, successful career.
A KUT Above the Rest
Did someone mention radio play? Turns out what Davíd Garza really needs it to be in regular rotation at KUT. With the latest Arbitron ratings just in, it seems the local noncommercial NPR outlet is beating the tar out of the local competition -- all of it. Not only is KUT No.1 during morning drive time (with NPR's Morning Edition anchoring things), it took the top spot overall for the important 25-54 age bracket, which is the part of the ratings on which stations generally base their "We're Number One!" claim. "Austin is a remarkable public radio market," says KUT-FM program director Hawk Mendenhall, in an obvious effort to add "understatement of the year" to his list of accomplishments. Ironically, the Arbitron ratings best serve as an indicator to advertisers as to where their dollar is best spent, something that doesn't particularly apply to a public-supported station like KUT. Mendenhall, whose first name sounds like the moniker of a classic rock station, says he's unsure whether being ratings champ does much to aid the station in getting underwriters, since "most [advertisers] need that full 30 seconds of screaming or whatever" to get their message across. Mainly, to him, the good news in the ratings is simply that, "It says there's many people listening to us. It makes you try harder -- just because you're a public radio station, you obviously can't say you're 'under the radar.'"
AMN To Please
The Austin Music Network still has a way to go before it's out of the red zone, but progress seems to be getting made, with new material being shot and a general increase in quality continuing to be evident. Not that everyone is happy with AMN right now, however. Take producer Robert Bennett, for example, whose show Midnight From Master Control was given the axe recently after some two years on the air. Says Bennett, "We were voted one the best local TV shows in the Chronicle, and from our understanding, we were the highest-rated show on the network." AMN's Woody Roberts says the reason for the show's cancellation is that, "Our focus is Austin music, and we need more diversity. We don't have 'genre times' anymore; we're trying to get more diversity around the clock." Roberts adds that since November, he had tried to work with the Master Control people to put the show in line with the new, mostly local philosophy. Austin Music Commission/KGSR jock Kevin Connor, meanwhile, says that, "Lately, even people I deal with who've had reservations about AMN seem to be a lot more enthusiastic about it." Connor points out, however, it's not anything that AMN is or isn't doing that may be at the fore of its troubles nowadays. "Because of the downturn in the economy, and the downturn in sales tax revenue," Connor warns, "the city's gonna have to tighten the belt in different places, and AMN is not protected. I'm not saying it's the first place they're gonna cut, but it's sensitive. It's endangered, I'll put it that way." With those budget issues due to come up on the block later this month and July, Dancing will be keeping a TV eye on the proceedings.
Golly! With all the hoopla going on since Jenna Bush got her second booze bust in a local establishment, how come only the Weekly World News got the really huge story -- that the presidential first daughter is being stalked around the UT campus by the half man, half Die Fledermaus creature known as "Bat Boy"??? The tabloid, which has been following the creature's exploits for nearly a decade, reported this week that, "At age 13, the mysterious Bat Boy's hormones are apparently kicking in," and that UT campus police have repeatedly "shooed away" the vampiric teen horndog. So far, no reports of Bat Boy sightings have been noted at either the Cactus Cafe or the Hole in the Wall, though the latter reports a slightly higher than usual rate of pink elephant spottings. Both places should remain safe, as the Bush sisters, with their arrests at various shot bars and burrito chains, have displayed a determinedly pedestrian taste in haunts A number of new compilation discs have drifted into the office in recent weeks, with Asleep at the Wheel's new compilation of re-recorded hits, The Very Best of Asleep at the Wheel, leading the pack. As reported here a while back, Ray Benson and company did up classic tunes like "My Baby Thinks She's a Train" and "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" anew on their own label, so that they might finally own a recording of their own. Turns out they did it just in time, too, as just this week, MCA Records issued The Best of Asleep at the Wheel as part of their "20th Century Masters" series. Proving once again that taste is indeed subjective, the two discs share not a single tune in common. Then again, Benson's Very Best has "Route 66," while the new Roadside Attractions, a new compilation of songs about the fabled highway out from Lazy S.O.B., features the Wheel doing "Albuquerque" rather than "Route 66." Plenty of other local and area acts are on Roadside Attractions, including Marcia Ball, Dale Watson, Gary Primich, Jimmy LaFave, Randy Garibay, Steve James, and the LeRoi Brothers. Young Texas Guitar Slingers: Texas Blues Evolution is a new compilation from Antone's Records, offering up tracks from George DeVore, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Guy Forsyth, and the like. Meanwhile, Lucinda Williams, who's already everywhere else, can now be found on the Mississippi John Hurt tribute album Avalon Blues, out on the Vanguard label It's a battle over Wednesday nights?!? Well, it's true. Things have been going gangbusters at both the Austin Federation of Musicians' Summer Concert Series, at Waterloo Park every Wednesday until June 27, from 6:45-9:45pm, (www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/summerconcerts.htm) and KGSR's Blues on the Green shows, at Zilker Park on alternate Wednesdays from 7:30-9:30pm until August 23. Just in case you haven't yet caught on to the free, outdoor, family-friendly shows, note that the former's next set of performers will be Don McCalister and the Conrads on June 20, while the latter will next feature the Radiators on June 27 OOPS!: Regarding last week's column, it is of course Lance Free who's the co-owner of the Red Eyed Fly and who recently moved to Dallas. Lance Farley, on the other hand, is the Honky member who used to book the Fly and is still very much in town.
-- Contributors: Michael Chamy, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer